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House of Commons Hansard #66 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was young.

Topics

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Madam Speaker, as a member of the trade committee, I understand the importance of free trade as I believe all members of the House do. We talk about fair trade, but we have to look at it from a different perspective and ask what fair trade means.

I have talked to many constituents about the importance of diversifying our trade around the world, and I know committee members have discussed this also with witnesses from across the country. Over 80% of our trade is with one trading partner and this has caused a lot of the economic downturn that we are seeing today.

We have the toughest side agreements with labour and environmental agreements. There are different ways of negotiating. The U.S. signed an agreement with Peru on February 1.

We talk about fair trade, but I would like to ask my colleague how this agreement is fair to Canadian businesses? They are at a competitive disadvantage every day that goes by. Quebec farmers and Prairie farmers are losing business. Businesses across the country are losing business.

How is it fair by delaying and dithering, and dodging the fact that we need to expand our market share because this agreement is going to help Canadian businesses?

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to correct the member on something. The side agreements have been noted as being inferior to the agreement that the Americans have negotiated with Peru.

We on this side of the House think Canada can do better. Canada has had a solid history in the past on human rights, on labour rights and hopefully environmental rights. It is not good enough to have inferior side agreements on these kinds of critical issues.

I also want to underline the importance of getting it right. Trade agreements are about values as well as about trade. We cannot rush to get an agreement done that will leave behind our values.

Joe Clark put it well at the foreign affairs committee recently when he said that we can have trade agreements but we need to be able to pronounce our values to the world. If we give up our values in trade agreements, then our reputation is sullied with respect to diplomacy and our place in the world.

We on this side of the House think the government has to get it right. It has to take the time to get it right and protect the values that are so important to all Canadians, and to the people of Peru for that matter. The government has to make sure that due diligence is done.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Madam Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right. We should not be turning a blind eye with regard to the environment and human rights.

The U.S. had over two years with respect to its agreement with Peru and it obviously has a lot of flaws. The president of Peru, Alan Garcia Perez, actually did 102 legislative decrees on the agreement. The concerns are, based on these decrees, that they are actually unconstitutional. The activists have basically indicated that the agreement is detrimental to labour, the environment, the agriculture industry, and indigenous rights.

Perhaps my colleague could explain a bit more about why it is important that we make sure that we get it right.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

Noon

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I am going to reference yet again not my point of view or my party's point of view, but the point of view of Canadians. I want to reference a comprehensive study that was recently done on the point of view of Canadians. That is important data for all of us. This review was done by Canada's World, which is a centre for dialogue in British Columbia.

Canadians want the federal government to make Canadian companies responsible for environmental damage when carrying out overseas operations. They want the federal government to pass mandatory, not voluntary, regulations for Canadian corporations overseas on human rights and environmental standards. That is what Canadians think.

I am asking the government to please listen to Canadians as well as members in this place and put this agreement aside because it is not right. Canadian values are not in this agreement.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

Noon

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to follow my learned colleague from Ottawa Centre in this debate.

Quite frankly, this is the kind of debate we need to have in the House about the government's trade agenda, which is simply a carbon copy of the Liberals' trade agenda. On its trade agenda, the government essentially has shown that it is appallingly weak in negotiating and has shown an inability to set any objectives in line with what Canadians strongly believe they need to see in trade policy. The vast majority of Canadians are fair traders. They want to see a balanced approach on trade that actually provides for improvement in environmental standards, human rights and labour rights. They also want to see a trade strategy that allows for domestic growth and jobs here at home. They get neither with this bill, tragically.

Most Canadian families earn less now than they did when the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement was implemented back in 1989. We have seen an erosion for the vast majority of Canadian families. They are earning less. The ones who have profited are chief executives and corporate lawyers. They have seen their family income increase dramatically. The wealthiest Canadians now take more than half of all income in Canada, but for most Canadians in the middle class, Canadians in the lower middle class and the poorest Canadians, they have seen a substantial erosion in their income.

We are also facing a record trade deficit. Essentially we export raw materials to create jobs in other countries and we import increasingly the manufactured products that used to be manufactured here in Canada. How does the Canada-Peru free trade agreement change this? It does not change it at all. Fundamentally, even under the former Liberal government, most of the bilateral agreements that we have signed have led to a fall in exports. We simply import more from the country of origin, often with no standards applied, no labour standards, no minimum wage standards, but our exports actually fall.

To pretend that this bill is in any way part of any sort of comprehensive economic strategy is simply false. It is not the objective of the government. The objective of the government appears to be, more than anything else, just fancy ribbon cutting. Signing a trade deal has a lot of pomp and circumstance. People put their signatures on a piece of paper. They get to come to the House to say that they are doing something, but when most bilaterals have led to a fall in exports, when most Canadian families are earning less, we have to wonder. We have to think that somebody in the Conservative government would actually look at the results, would actually monitor what is going on and take measures to put in place a more comprehensive export strategy. That has not been done.

As we have cited in the House before, the Conservative government is just as bad as the former Liberal government. It is the same old, same old. One does not change the other's strategy. We are just as bad under the Conservatives as we were under the Liberals for actually providing any sort of product promotion support outside of Canada.

For the entire United States market, where 85% of our exports go right now, the Canadian federal government has a combined product promotion budget of $3.4 million for this massive United States of America market of 300 million citizens. I will repeat that figure, because it is stunning in its cheapness, that $3.4 million is the entire federal government product promotion support budget for the entire United States of America market. Is that unbelievable? Yes it is, but it is unfortunately true.

The government has no trade strategy. It provides no product promotion support. It seems incapable of understanding even the rudimentary elements of what a fair trade strategy would be.

In the OECD countries, in the United States, the debate is increasingly on fair trade as opposed to George Bush style unregulated free trade. In election after election, fair trade is winning out. People around the world want a balanced fair trade approach and not this radical, extremist, George Bush style, unregulated free trade approach. As a result of that, we are seeing elections such as the recent one in the United States where governments are changed and that agenda is stopped.

That is the approach the government has taken until now. Let us look at the specifics of Bill C-24.

The NDP voted against the softwood sellout that killed tens of thousands of jobs in Canada. We voted against the shipbuilding sellout that every single worker, manager and owner within the shipbuilding industry implored Parliament not to pass without a carve-out. The NDP proposed the carve-out and the Liberals and the Conservatives banded together. The Liberals drove the getaway car for the Conservatives and essentially adopted a bill they knew would kill the shipbuilding industry in Canada. It is a shame. We have the longest coastline in the world and we just voted a few months ago to kill progressively our shipbuilding industry.

The NDP voted against the Canada-Colombia trade deal, an egregiously bad deal. One cannot imagine how it was conceived. That regime is connected to murderous paramilitary thugs and drug lords and the government wants to give it preferential trade access to Canada. That is absolutely absurd. We will debate that if the government ever brings it back before the House.

I think the government was as embarrassed as we in the NDP were that it even proposed such an appalling concept as rewarding a regime with massive human rights violations and connections to murderous paramilitary thugs and drug lords who killed hundreds of people last year. The president has had connections with them since his initial days as the mayor of Medellin, Colombia when the Medellin cartel ran the place. In any event, we will debate the Colombia trade deal when it comes forward.

The Peru trade deal provides no protection for the environment and no protection on labour rights. The Peruvian government has essentially refused to put its signature on International Labour Organization agreements and the government does nothing with regard to the superficial, symbolic labour side deal to address that issue.

Now we find within the Peru agreement the same chapter 11 provisions that have been rejected by every other country on earth since NAFTA was implemented. The United States moved away from it. Every other country has moved away from it.

The investor state provisions allow corporate CEOs to override democratic decision making, whether it is on the labour code or environmental standards. Corporate CEOs can actually get compensation for any public measure that is taken in the public interest. It is a cash cow. They can go to governments and get millions of dollars for nothing, simply because the government has made a decision that is in the best interests of its citizens.

In Bill C-24 there are enhanced investor state provisions that allow corporate CEOs to milk the government in Peru. We learned just last week that there was a nationwide strike among Peruvian workers because in the northeastern Amazon region of Peru, a package of laws has been passed that will open up the lands of that region to mining and drilling without consultation with local communities.

There is a chapter 11 on steroids in Bill C-24. There is no protection for environmental standards or labour standards, and now there is legislation by the Peruvian government that allows mining CEOs to override local democratic decision making. Regardless of what anyone's political stripe is, one would think that every member of the House would understand that democratic decision making is the very essence of democracy. Once we give extraordinary rights to corporate CEOs to override that and get millions of dollars in compensation for nothing, we are doing something that is profoundly unfair to the people of Peru.

For all of those reasons, the NDP is speaking out against this agreement, but we continue to press the government to actually negotiate fair trade agreements. It is not a complicated concept. It means actually raising living standards in Canada and abroad. That is done by establishing tough environmental standards, tough labour standards and human rights. The NDP will be voting no on this bill.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn ConservativeMinister of National Revenue and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the hon. member's speech, as well as those from several representatives of the Bloc Québécois.

The hon. member said that it was not good for the Canadian economy to have a free trade agreement with Peru and other countries. If our country produced goods just to meet the needs of Canadians, does he think that he and I and those watching us would have a more prosperous life? The answer is no.

Canada's strength is that we are very productive and in a position to export our products throughout the world, which gives us an economy that is far stronger than that of other countries.

That said, I travelled to Peru when I was Minister of Labour to discuss, among other things, the side agreement on labour rights. From my discussions with my Peruvian counterpart, the labour minister of the day, as well as other representatives of that country, I understood how well Canada was perceived internationally as far as workers' rights are concerned. I also understood the leadership role Canada could play in these countries.

The hon. member is likely not aware that between 50% and 60% of companies in Peru are currently not registered with the state, which means that the state does not collect any kind of taxes and is unaware of working conditions. With this agreement, businesses will now have to be registered and this will be to the advantage of the people of Peru and the workers. What is more, the agreement respects—

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I really liked the minister's question. I also like his region, Saguenay—Lac-St-Jean, where I lived for several years.

The people of that region understand that it does not come down to a choice between no trade at all and the bad trade agreements negotiated by this government. They understand that our borders will not close if we do not sign these agreements. My argument, as I said before, is that most of the time, bilateral agreements actually reduce exports. There is an ethical issue in this, and a lack of strategy.

Signing this agreement will not create prosperity here in Canada, that is for sure. The fact that the government is signing an agreement with the Government of Colombia, a country where union members are killed on an almost-weekly basis, where people disappear every day and where the regime is linked to paramilitary organizations and drug dealers, shows just how sincere—

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Questions and comments.

The hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on his excellent speech. I am not surprised that the Conservatives plan to vote in favour of the agreement. After all, they have already signed it. It is in line with their right-wing ideology, as we have seen in other trade agreements.

However, I am surprised that the Liberals will be voting for the agreement. They tabled Bill C-300 in the House, a bill to ensure that Canadian mining companies behave responsibly in terms of workers' rights and the environment. They also moved Motion M-283, with which I am sure my colleague is familiar, to implement the recommendations of the National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing Countries advisory group.

I would like my colleague to comment on that. In his opinion, why did the Liberals vote in favour of those two measures if they are voting against—

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is actually a very good question.

In this House, over the past three years, the Liberals have supported the Conservatives 72 consecutive times. The Conservatives have been kept in power by the Liberals. There is no difference: the Liberals and the Conservatives have the same beliefs.

However, from time to time and in a superficial manner, the Liberals present bills to prove that they disagree.

They voted for the softwood lumber agreement, which resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs. They also voted for the agreement that sold out the shipbuilding industry. The Liberals say they will vote in favour of the agreement with Colombia—

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. Is the House ready for the question?

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The question is on the motion that this question be now put. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

In my opinion, the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

This vote stands deferred until Wednesday at the end of government orders.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-15, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Speaker's RulingControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There is one motion in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-15. Motion No. 1 will be debated and voted upon.

I will now put Motion No. 1 to the House.

Motion in AmendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

moved:

That Bill C-15 be amended by deleting Clause 3.

Mr. Speaker, we are back in the House debating Bill C-15, which deals with mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes in Canada.

I have looked at this bill, studied it very carefully, and I heard the witnesses in the committee. I think we had 16 witnesses, 13 of whom were very strongly opposed to this bill and urged us to defeat it. Three witnesses were in favour, and one was quite lukewarm in opposition. I have to say this is one of the worst bills the Conservative government has ever put forward, certainly in terms of its crime agenda.

I think we had some of the best witnesses we have ever heard at committee, but we also had some of the worst. The Minister of Justice himself was a terrible witness. He was pressed to show evidence to Canadians, the committee and members of Parliament that mandatory minimum sentencing will work for drug crimes and that it is an effective public policy initiative. When he was pressed repeatedly to show evidence, not his own opinion, not Conservative ideology, but evidence that this bill was actually a sound public policy, he could not produce any evidence, and he has not to this day produced any evidence, that mandatory minimum sentences work anywhere, and certainly not for drug crimes.

On the other side, we had witnesses, for example, the John Howard Society, that came forward, cited 35 reports, and produced to the committee 17 different studies and reports that show that mandatory minimums do not work, particularly for drug crimes.

We had excellent witnesses who came forward from Canada and also from the United States. One in particular, who I want to focus on, was the former counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary, Mr. Eric Sterling. He stated to the committee that his decision to promote mandatory minimum sentences in the U.S. was probably “the biggest mistake of my entire career for over 30 years in the practice of law”.

We heard Mr. Sterling via videoconference, and his testimony was very powerful. We also heard Deborah Small, from the Break the Chains organization in New York, who has also been dealing with mandatory minimum sentences. They told us about the real experience of dealing with these kinds of laws.

Mr. Sterling told us that the goal of reducing drug use under these laws had failed. The goal of promoting safety in local communities had failed. The goal of raising the price of drugs while lowering the purity had failed. The goal of reducing organized crime had failed.

The minister told the committee that the purpose of this bill was not to go after the low-level dealers, the people on the street who are addicts, who are facing significant health issues and who should not be criminalized. We were told this bill was about going after organized crime, about going after the kingpins, about putting the big traffickers, the big dealers in jail.

The minister may clap his hands and delude himself that this what he is doing, but I think the government knows that the reality and the evidence shows this bill will do none of those things. This bill is clearly targeted at the low-level dealers. We heard evidence to that effect, and the experience of what has happened in the United States shows us that as well.

In committee, the NDP put forward 21 amendments. They were amendments that tried to remove some of the mandatory minimums, the worst aspects of the bill, and failing that they tried to mitigate some of the damage of this bill by changing the regime of mandatory minimums, for example, getting an exemption for medical marijuana for compassion clubs.

I am so disappointed that those amendments did not go through. The Liberal members on the committee failed to respond to those amendments and failed to support them, which really surprises me. We are now left with a bill that is going to be destructive in terms of local communities and incarcerating more and more people who are dealing with a health issue, not a criminal justice issue.

I feel we are at this terrible place where we have a bill that looks like it is going through. It is simply really bad public policy. It is going to increase the prison population, particularly the provincial prison population, because most of these mandatory sentences that are two years or less will be under the provincial jurisdiction. Again, the minister could not tell us how much that was going to cost. He could not tell us how many more people are estimated to be imprisoned as a result of this bill.

Our fear, and in fact the information we have, is that this bill will target what VANDU in the downtown eastside called the “low hanging fruit”, people who are easy targets on the street. They are the people who are going to be hit by the mandatory minimums in this bill.

We gave so many examples at the committee of how this bill is going to be abused in terms of who is going to be hit by it and how wide the scope of enforcement is. For example, we know that one of the provisions of an aggravated circumstance is if one rents. We might have the situation of a student, a young person or an adult who is renting, and even by giving one plant to a neighbour they would incur a mandatory minimum sentence of nine months and a maximum, potentially, of 14 years.

In the current Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, there would be no minimum, but the maximum would be seven years. We can begin to see how punitive this regime and this bill are and how the bill can be applied to people who are creating no serious harm. They are not the kingpins. They are people who are maybe dealing with medical marijuana, growing medical marijuana. They may be involved in a compassion club. They may have a couple of plants for recreational use.

I think that most Canadians understand that criminalizing drug users, criminalizing marijuana users, has not produced any change. The real emphasis we need to look at in society is prevention, education and treatment, what we call the four pillar approach. That does include enforcement, but the government has decided to focus all its firepower on enforcement and on a punitive regime that is now going to capture so many people who will have criminal records as a result of this bill.

We, in the NDP, are very disappointed that this bill is at the point where it looks like it will go through because it has the support of the Liberals who are supporting the Conservatives. I am very grateful to the members in the Bloc who understood clearly what this bill was about and from the beginning decided they would not support mandatory minimums.

We tried very hard to get those amendments through the committee. One of the things I was most concerned about were the amendments that would have removed or exempted medical marijuana. In fact that adds insult to injury. The federal government has shown a complete lack of respect and understanding for medical marijuana users, even most recently in the court decision where the federal government tried to appeal a decision that would have opened up access to medical marijuana. Thankfully, the Supreme Court of Canada turned down the federal intervention, but even so, with this bill it will now be cracking down on medical marijuana users with mandatory minimums.

Our amendment today would remove clause 3, which has nine mandatory minimums within it, eight of which are for marijuana. We believe this is a very problematic part of the bill. We think it should be deleted.

I would urge my colleagues, particularly in the Liberal Party, to think twice about what they are doing in terms of supporting a policy and a law that is going to hurt people, put more people in jail and criminalize drug users instead of approaching this as a health issue. I think the Liberals know that mandatory minimums do not work. They have seen the evidence as well.

We urge the House to reject this bill and to deal with the issue of substance use in our society from a comprehensive perspective, not simply by bringing in these wacky laws that criminalize people, put more people in jail and, in the end, do not actually change the situation.

Motion in AmendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I guess it is back to business as usual for NDP members. They completely oppose to a bill that is directed at drug traffickers. We are zeroing in on drug trafficking all the way through the bill, but they now completely oppose it. That is a slightly different message than I received on three trips to British Columbia a couple of months ago. I had reporters say to me that I must be somewhat encouraged because the NDP had said it would keep an open mind about getting tough on some of the problems that B.C. that involved drugs, gangs and guns. I told them that I hoped it continued.

I do not know quite where the dividing line was. I think it was about 10 seconds after the British Columbia election was completed and then it was back to business as usual. The NDP is no longer in the business of getting tough on crime and standing up for victims and law-abiding Canadians, and that is very disappointing. It is a mischaracterization of the bill to say that it is going after users. Users want to be helped and we want to help. We are going after traffickers.

I disagree completely with the member. The last time she spoke, I did not get an opportunity to say this, but she went on to say that the government was targeting people who were trafficking in drugs around schools, that this was somebody who maybe used to go to the school and was back talking to a few friends and that a little drugs and money went back and forth. This is the last kind of individual school boards and schools need, a former student back to sell a few drugs on the playground or in the neighbourhood surrounding it.

School boards, parents, teachers and law-abiding students, who are there to get an education, do not want them. However, the NDP has spoken out against that and all the other things. It says that these poor dealers are selling a bit of drugs for a bit of money.

We are sending out a very clear message to those people and we are standing up for law-abiding Canadians who do not want this problem in their backyard. I am very disappointed that the NDP has completely folded 10 seconds after the last B.C. election.